Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Last Temptation of Mirza"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi


a montage of original comedy and personal reflection


Shazia Mirza

Shazia Mirza, the world’s leading female Muslim stand-up comic, brought her uniqueness to Cambridge as a guest speaker for Voices from the Edge, an organization that promotes a global forum through an exchange of thoughts and ideas. Ms. Mirza, a dead-pan combination of Meryl Streep and Cher (she has also been compared to Harry Potter’s Dobbin), enlightened through humor, always the best medicine for American audiences to swallow. Still a practicing Muslim, Ms. Mirza covers her hair in the traditional manner and openly admits to still being virginal but her being British-born allows her to keep a clear-eyed distance necessary for satire (“I’m introduced as a Muslim but also that I’m British, which is like saying I’m going to blow up this building --- but politely.”). She sees herself as a comedienne, no more, no less, yet is a constant target for (verbal) abuse, primarily from Muslim men (a Muslim man once called Ms. Mirza a prostitute for doing stand-up comedy; she shrugs, “Men like him supply my material, so in a way this man is my pimp.”). Compared to Reno, an angry American comic who all but sets fire to the stage, Ms. Mirza concentrates on safe-enough jabs at her two cultures and reads aloud from hate letters and e-mails sent to her --- interestingly, Ms. Mirza draws on two sources which will keep her in demand for quite some time: (1) disarming Western audiences with her human-ness beneath her iconography and (2) Muslim women being seen as victims and therefore are not to be feared; a male Muslim comic, on the other hand, would have quite the up-hill battle towards acceptance. With the world situation constantly evolving, Ms. Mirza may have to darken her satire or adjust her stage persona, in time, but for now she is hilarious and I was constantly torn between laughing and trying to capture her on paper (Ms. Mirza’s comedy is cleansing in the same manner of the Norman Lear sitcoms of the 1970s --- it’s called Clearing the Air); here, with apologies, are sample reconstructions:

“I am asked, ‘Why does your mother walk five steps behind your father?’ My mother says, ‘Because he looks better from behind.’ Today’s Muslim women walk five steps in FRONT of their husbands, because of the land mines…”

“An America’s Most Wanted Ad for a shoplifting Muslim woman: “‘WOMAN --- BROWN EYES’.”

“Muslim women cannot wear high heels because the clicking of heels are arousing to Muslim men. As a result, all of the goats have been locked up.”

“If I’m going to blow up this plane, do you think I’m going to spend the last hours of my life in Coach?”

“We’re the new Black People --- and in a few years they’ll be wearing our clothes and listening to our music.”

“When a male suicide bomber dies, he goes to Heaven with seventy-seven virgins. When a female suicide bomber dies, she gets a day off.”

Speaking of Reno, I would be curious to hear her, now. When she performed last September at Jimmy Tingle’s she mentioned her crashing the Republican Convention, alerting members that their party would lose the election. Hopefully Reno now has new ammo in her repertoire though she may be too inflammatory as a cultural exchange with the milder, cooler Ms. Mirza.

"The Last Temptation of Mirza" (16 February)
38 Cameron Ave., Suite 100, CAMBRIDGE, MA
1 (617) 492-4091

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide